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JUDGE: Bledsoe forced to practice what he preaches

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Clark Judge

 
   
 

NEW ORLEANS

He's down. He's hurt. He's in the middle of a gut-wrenching crisis in his career. In short, he's a perfect candidate for the Drew Bledsoe Foundation ... except for one minor glitch. He's Drew Bledsoe. The New England Patriots' quarterback years ago set up his foundation to help children by teaching parents how to overcome adversity. Bledsoe has three sons, and he wanted to help where he could. But it's not the kids who need a lift now; it's the father. Bledsoe is the quarterback who signed the 10-year, $103-million contract before last season, and he's the quarterback who was supposed to live life happily ever after with the Patriots. Then he left the second game of the season with an injury. And he's barely been seen since. To the surprise of no one, Bledsoe is back on the bench for Sunday's Super Bowl, and he's not happy about it. But you'd never know unless you asked. He's poised. He remains confident. And, occasionally, he forces a smile. But that's the way it is when you start a foundation dedicated to overcoming adversity. The problem is Bledsoe was supposed to be delivering the lesson; not living it. "One of the messages there is that you can handle yourself with dignity and self respect regardless of the situation," Bledsoe said, "and there's something there about practicing what you preach. It would be hard for me to throw a fit and then go to someone else and tell them to act differently." That doesn't mean the decision went down easily. Bledsoe conceded he was "disappointed" when coach Bill Belichick delivered the news early Wednesday evening, and he has every right to feel that way. He played well in relief of Brady in last weekend's AFC championship game, and he was hopeful — even though he knew the chances were remote — of getting another shot to win a Super Bowl. That opportunity ended when Brady's sprained left ankle held up in Wednesday's practice. One day afterward, there was some swelling in the affected area, but nothing to concern Brady or the Patriots. Nevertheless, the quarterback will take no chances, saying he will wear an ankle brace against St. Louis and consider taking a pain-killing injection. "I'm pretty excited," he said of starting the Super Bowl. "It's kind of the highlight of my life." It probably won't make Bledsoe's Top 10, but he had to know what was coming. Brady led the Patriots into the Super Bowl by winning 13 of 16 starts, and if he could walk, he could play. This year's club belonged to Brady, not Bledsoe. Nevertheless, that doesn't make this decision easier. Belichick said he would make a choice based on which quarterback gives the Patriots the best opportunity to win, and that quarterback was Brady. Simple as that. "We don't run a poll here," he said. "We're just trying to win a football game." If Brady was the logical choice, Bledsoe was the sentimental favorite. He didn't raise a stink when he was chained to the bench this season, and he didn't protest when Belichick chose Brady, either. Tell me how many pros would accept a demotion like that. But Bledsoe's a class act, and he's been as good for the Patriots as pro football has been to him. Drew Bledsoe just got a lesson in adversity, and it wasn't delivered by his foundation. It was delivered by Belichick. Bledsoe responded as he tells others to respond, and while it was difficult, he responded by doing what he thought was right, which, basically, was nothing. Too bad there aren't more like him. "I do feel for him," said Brady. "I think he really wants to play this game." Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address: cjudge@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Patriots, Drew Bledsoe

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